Piece of work
Painter Linda Allen successfully ventured into the world of mosaic.
Linda Allen’s most recent public installations include mosaics at the new DVIS facility and St. John’s Episcopal Church.
Sometimes the best opportunities arrive purely by chance. That happened in 1994 for artist Linda Allen, who was asked to design and create an outdoor mural for Mayo Demonstration School.
Allen, who is represented by the M. A. Doran Gallery, is a painter and ceramics artist who also has stayed consistently busy the past 23 years with her mosaic creations.
Was becoming an artist a lifelong dream for you? I always wanted to be an artist and was encouraged by my parents. As a child I was taken to Philbrook Museum of Art and thought it was a beautiful and magical place. Who wouldn’t fall in love with art?
I entered a citywide art contest when I was 8 years old, and I did a painting of an oil derrick and won. That was the first piece of art that I received recognition and prize money for, and additionally I was recognized by a piece in the local newspaper. Quite a big deal for a young girl. I suppose I was inspired by the Golden Driller, since we lived by the Tulsa Fairgrounds.
How did your mosaic mural at Mayo come about? My son, Grant, was a student at Mayo Demonstration School, where Margaret Erling was the director, and she asked me to paint a mural for the front of the school. Being a ceramic artist, I had been doing some pieces with shards of glass, which inspired me to attempt a mosaic piece. I was afraid a painted mural would not withstand the elements, and with time, would deteriorate, whereas the mosaic would be more forgiving of the Oklahoma weather. It was a huge project, some 20-by-40 feet. Another mother, Cindy Harris, also an artist, worked with me. Every child in the school participated, as did parents, teachers and grandparents. Tulsa Public Schools provided scaffolding, and many Tulsa businesses provided supplies. The project took a year to complete, and I’m proud to say, continues to be a favorite background for that “first day of school photo.” I love that.
Walk us through the mosaic process. The creation of a mosaic begins with a preliminary meeting with the client where we decide on size, subject, budget, site and installation. I then prepare drawings and a budget and get the client’s approval. Once the project is approved, I draw a design scaled to the project, including colors, subject matter, etc.
With the help of my mosaic crew, the piece is created using the material chosen by me and the client. This material could include Italian glass, Mexican glass, tile, ceramic pieces, shells, rocks, found objects, etc., depending upon the requirements of the piece. The mosaic is created on a fiberglass mesh, which is then grouted. After the grouting, it is then installed at the site, either on a concrete board or other such surface. This process is very labor-intensive, in that each piece of glass is individually cut and installed one piece at a time, which is very time-consuming.
Who is your mosaic crew? I have been fortunate to have the help of wonderful people whom I have trained over the years. My crew through the years has included friends, family, young artists and retired individuals who wanted to participate in an artistic process.
We have all become good friends, and I could have never completed the large projects I have done without their help and support. The time required for these projects depends upon size, detail, scope, conditions and size of the crew.
The process seems arduous but worthwhile, considering the results. Creating a mosaic for me is like painting with small pieces of glass and tile. It is very tedious, physical, time-consuming and, finally, very rewarding.
For more examples of Allen’s mosaic work, visit www.lindaallenart.com.